Parenting with Advanced Cancer

October 23, 2014

Being a parent affects EVERY decision in my life, even the ones regarding my cancer care.

Like a lot of parents, I said “DUH!” more than once as I read the results of this study about parenting with advanced cancer. Being a parent affects every decision in my life, both big and small. When I’m choosing what to cook for dinner, I question whether Henry will eat my entrée or feed it to the dogs, and when I’m choosing a cancer treatment, I instinctively ask: how will this treatment affect my ability to parent?

Cancer treatments are physically, logistically and emotionally challenging, and when you're a parent, those challenges impact decisions regarding your care. I have to be able to chase my little wild man around the house, and I make that point very clear to my doctors. I don’t have the option to take medicines with side effects that keep me in bed all day.

I also have to worry more about the logistics of treatment — how often do I need to be at the cancer center, and can I drive myself home? When we discovered my stage four breast cancer recurrence, Henry was only three weeks old, and I immediately started weekly chemotherapy infusions. I relied on family members to babysit while I drove myself to chemo appointments, which meant my doctor couldn’t prescribe any medications that might make me drowsy. Babysitters were more important than drivers, so I sacrificed some anti-nausea meds to make it work.

When Henry was an infant, my husband and I decided we were willing to do whatever it took to keep me here, whether it meant travelling to other cancer centers, dealing with unpleasant side effects or asking our family to help. Almost three years later, that same mindset drives our treatment decisions.

As a parent, I want to protect my family at all costs, but unfortunately, cancer is a big nasty force in our life. It is a gut-wrenching feeling, knowing my husband is relying on me to help raise our son, yet my life feels completely out of my control. I vow to do everything in my power to protect them from the heartbreak of losing me, so when deciding between a grueling treatment that gives me more time or an “easier” one that won't, I will always take the hard road. Because if there’s even the slightest chance we can keep my cancer under control long enough for me to see Henry grow up, this mama bear says BRING IT ON!


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